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Classroom Modifications for the Autistic Student
We spend countless hours preparing for the annual Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP meeting itself can last half a day or more discussing goals, accommodations, curriculum, assessments – not to mention those that have to overcome eligibility issues, transportation, placement and support systems.
Two years ago at Matthew’s last IEP at his previous school I initiated the discussion of having the speech therapy take place outside the classroom with just the therapist and Matthew. I felt this was important for him to develop a relationship solely with the Therapist without the aide being present.
I also felt that when the therapy was on a pull out basis Matthew was receiving better service. In my opinion having a therapist work with several kids or inside the classroom while other lessons are going on is not helping my child. He thrives on positive feedback and likes being rewarded. Having one person pay attention to only him makes him shine and this strengthens the bond between therapist and student.
Unfortunately at that IEP I was outnumbered, although his feeding therapist gave examples of how the therapy works at her clinic with him and agreed with my suggestion. Since an IEP is typically held at the end of the school year we headed over to the new school, which was last year.
I found out months after the fact that Matthew was indeed being pulled out for Speech Therapy. A few weeks before his triennial IEP I went unannounced to the therapy room to observe Matthew having a session. I arrived before he was brought in by his aide and stayed off to the left side of the room.
I was able to witness Matthew bouncing into the room straight for a chair in the middle of the table ready to work. Only then did the therapist point out that I was in the room. He was a bit out of focus since I was there, but then eased into the routine of the therapy session. This school year he has the same teacher, aide and therapists, which is ideal so we do not lose many months getting people acquainted with Matthew and his issues.
I observed more sign language being utilized than the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that is written into the IEP. During this past triennial I added a statement that sign language was not to be used. Matthew spent five years at the last school with new therapists every year. At one point a Speech Therapist recommended consultations with the teacher only and to utilize sign language. Again no one was reading the cumulative file on my child or they would have known he had an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Assessment (AAC) while in preschool and that a cheap talk device was on loan to us for his use.
What bothered me was that no one contacted me as an IEP team member that they were having therapy outside the classroom – although this was perfectly fine with me I still should have been notified. The use of the sign language was an issue I had to take up at the IEP meeting because being his first year at this school they were not aware of how many other therapists through school and off-site clinics had tried sign language to no avail. I did not want his precious time with the SLP to be wasted on something that was of no interest to him, plus PECS is clearly stated in the IEP, yet not utilized in an organized fashion.
As previously mentioned, Matthew has a Behavior Support Plan in place that is a result of a Functional Analysis Assessment. He has had Behavior Support Plans in previous IEPs, but this one was more extensive due in part to the Assessment. I have opinions on the pros and cons of assessments based on prior experiences.
The modifications listed in Matthew’s triennial IEP mention these are attempted prior to determining eligibility. It is written that teaching material is geared to student’s ability level, small group and individual attention.
The supports needed for participation in general education activities consist of – Matthew needs an aide who is closely focused on his growth and ability to succeed in a new environment. He needs visual support systems in place so that he can benefit from different experiences.
Instructional Accommodations – repetition of instruction, rephrasing questions, redirection to activities, modeling of task, reinforcement, visual cues to modify behaviors and for transition, visual learning strategies, and sensory input with support from his aide. Assignments broken down to smaller tasks, repetition, verbal & visual prompts and cues, allow for movement, picture schedule, models and reward system.
Assistive Technology device – shortened writing utensils, weighted pens or pencils, grips, highlighters.
Additional supports – aide to support desired behaviors at school and implementation of communication system, visual schedule and picture cues for requesting.
School based occupational therapy includes consultation, monitoring, individual and small group services to meet the student’s unique educational needs. Services will be provided both in the classroom and school environment. School based occupational therapist to informally collaborate with classroom staff to assist in implementation of sensory motor activities.
Transitions – Possible prompts for transitions: verbal, establish a social story in 3 main parts to ease the transition from Mom to aide upon drop-off, picture schedule (used accurately) for transition time to prepare for next activity (picture & verbal prompts and cues). Picture schedule in front of Matthew – at eye level. Look at antecedent behaviors to address behavior before it escalates to an undesirable behavior. Movement is needed prior to attending a task. Use of a picture on a videotape to denote where he is going. Matthew needs to know what is expected of him (beginning, middle & end) and attach meaning to it. Continuation of cheap talk device at a different time. Parent requests that food not be used as a reinforcer, per the advice of the Feeding Specialist and Dietitian. Parent requests that sign language not be used at this time. Teacher and aide to review program on a daily basis. Communication log (home to school) of what happened at school. This can be done through a picture system. Give Matthew opportunities to request assistance from more staff throughout the school day.
Since Matthew likes to hold and shake videos the AAC Accessor is the one who suggested using a pecs card velcroed to a videotape of where they are going so he has the tape in his hand as a fidget and the card shows where they are going. The Accessor for the Behavior Analysis had noted that he is quite upset going to the Auditorium for assemblies – yet no one was doing anything to prepare him for the transition or make him aware of where he was going.
The OT is the one who put tape on a section of the floor, weighed his backpack with some books and came up with the idea for Matthew to walk laps around that section before attending to tasks. He also enjoys using the easel so they are to be utilizing that more for his table work.
The book that helped me prepare for Matthew’s IEP is A Treasure Chest of Behavioral Strategies for Individuals with Autism, available at Amazon.
For Nicholas who is about to enter fourth grade with inclusion support the issues in the classroom are quite different. It is noted in his IEP that organizational skills impact his ability to access all areas of the curriculum. Nicholas displays good verbal skills, creative insights and a somewhat sophisticated sense of humor. Further opportunities to socially interact with his peers will benefit Nicholas’s overall progress.
The observation regarding math – His progress could possibly be strengthened by learning how to better apply problem solving strategies that could require utilizing and of the four math operations.
The autism of the student impacts his ability to sufficiently organize his classroom tasks, and to be able to accurately discriminate what is important or not important to do so.
Instructional accommodations - repetition/rephrasing instructions/questions, teacher prompting for student to report back directions, in order to ensure accurate understanding; close proximity to teacher during direct instruction, multi-model instruction, including visual cues and modeling.
Last year while in the third grade we had Nicholas move three times and then they changed the student next to him so he would not be distracted. For the school testing he gets extended time presented in a small group. This has been in the library with other kids and worked out well.
General Education with inclusion support – The RSP (resource specialist teacher) will provide inclusion support in the general education class 50 per week. DIS/LAS services will be provided on a consultation basis as needed with the RSP Teacher and the General Education Teacher.
We divided the time out to ten minutes per day, at the end of the day for the RSP to come in and help organize the homework and desk area. Unfortunately at the end of the school year this was not consistent and papers were forgotten at school and the rest of the IEP team decided he did not need this on a daily basis.
At the end of the year there was a presentation in the classroom and the RSP teacher came during the section at the end when the kids were walking their parents around the classroom. The student sitting next to Nicholas was with the RSP showing him what he had learned. It was at this time that I learned of the smoke stench coming from the RSP teacher. I could not focus and was distracted due to the scent he carried through the room.
Without this knowledge I would not have been able to ask Nicholas some specifics about the RSP teacher. Although Nicholas’s father has not been around for several years, there was a period when he showed up almost weekly for his supervised visits. The Father is a smoker and Nicholas was keenly aware of the smell his father brought into the house each week. In fact while standing in the line on two different occasions at the post office to send off ebay items he announced to the line that someone smelled like his father.
So with school about to start in one week I have to find a way to politely ask that the RSP teacher be changed to someone else because of this offensive scent that lingers on the RSP teacher. Actually I find it quite insulting that someone would go spend time with students smelling like this. I might have to send off a letter to an Etiquette specialist to learn of the proper way to handle this situation.
A few times I met with the RSP teacher and SLP at the school last year I brought along a book that I thought they would find interesting. In fact we went to the office to make several sets of the charts within the book. Tictionary – A Reference Guide to the World of Tourette Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Parents and Professionals. From page 167 –235 are worksheets you can photocopy.
There is also a listing of modifications for behavior, reading, organization, handwritng and grading/tests. There is a sample weekly report, substitute information, behavior management strategies, information for the bus driver, medications and symptoms that may interfere with sports. There is a wonderful section on the effects of seasonal and weather changes. I also note that during daylight savings time my kid’s waking times change drastically. There is a section on reading, tics and compulsions, cognitive behavioral therapy, pragmatics, humiliation, school reports and projects, teasing, pets and inclusion.
Tictionary – A Reference Guide to the World of Tourette Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Parents and Professionals is available at Amazon.
Another book I have brought with me to the IEP is – Incorporating Social Goals in the Classroom A Guide for Teachers and Parents of Children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome – also available at Amazon
I plan on obtaining one more book on the subject, Inclusive Programming for Elementary Students with Autism. This series also has a book specifically for Middle School that I am also going to purchase soon. It is never too early to start preparing for that transition! This book is also at Amazon.
The area we will be focusing our strategies on is reading comprehension. The State tests scores show that again Nicholas is on the low end for these tests, which is no surprise since this has been steady over the years. I did some research and found some resources.
Autism Teaching Tools Curriculum Management
A letter to the teacher - child is diagnosed with ADHD, Bipolar disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder and Asperger Syndrome.
Tin Snips A Special Education Resource
Gander Publishing Distributors for Lindamood-Bell Programs
Ed Helper Reading Comprehension 4th and 5th grade
Here is a new Yahoo Group for parents and professionals:
Behavior Analysis and Disruptive Disorders
This list is for parents and professionals interested in behavior analytic assessments such as functional behavioral assessment and curriculum based measurement as well as behaviorally based interventions. It is hope that this list will serve as an active point of discussion between parents, teachers, and researchers on the current availability of behavioral technology for treatment of disruptive disorders and the direction that this research needs to go.
Merit software reading comprehension booster
free online books reading A-Z
Red and green choices Sample Visuals
Lindamood-Bell Language Comprehension
HealthCare Gift Cards
Lunchtime issues for the child on the Autism Spectrum
Autism Related Publications
The Pros and Cons of Assessments
IEP Goals and Progress Reports
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.
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